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- Prayers for Freedom


Celebrate What?

Written by Robert Hansel

Gospel: John 17:6-19

On Independence Day we will be thinking about freedom, and I submit to you that Easter and Passover are like a spiritual Independence Day. What I'm getting at is that Easter provides all of us every Sunday (and every day, for that matter) with some basic freedoms that are very worth celebrating.

If you're not sure whether you have anything to celebrate, let me offer four freedoms that come to my mind this morning:

I. Freedom from high pressure and hard-heartedness. The message of Easter is that the cross is empty. All of the burden that we put upon ourselves to succeed, to do right, to prove that we're better than others, or the constant drive to accumulate treasures rather than sharing with those less fortunate is completely unnecessary. What a relief that is from self-imposed demands! The wonderful good news is that God loves us and accepts us. Such generous, gracious, unconditional love frees us to live for others. Everything that there is to earn or win is ours as a gift from our Creator. It's yours for the asking and it's yours both to enjoy and also to give away.

II. Freedom from hatred and blame-fixing. We don't have to get involved in the way of the world where, all around us, we see and hear people scapegoating one another. The world seeks "an eye for an eye," retaliation and revenge. As Christians we are enabled to understand, to love and to forgive. We don't have to rail against terrorists, Arabs, welfare cheats, corporate extortionists, drug dealers or anybody else. The blood of Jesus, the true paschal lamb, is available for the doorpost of every person on this planet. Easter tells us that it is God who said these words, "Forgive them because they know not what they do." Easter frees us to read the headlines and run the courtrooms with the firmness and compassion of justice rather than blind vengeance.

III. Freedom from habits that consume us. I don't care whether your particular habit is smoking, pills, drinking, gossip, TV shows, or whatever it is that eats up your time, treasure and talent. I'm talking about those diversions that we employ to avoid facing reality. What Easter does is to tell us that reality is OK—that, as Jesus showed on the cross when he was offered drugged wine to ease the pain, we don't need any opiates. Easter offers no Utopia but it says that God goes with you into all the darkness and pain and that, with him, we are "more than conquerors."

IV. Freedom from the hell of separation. Not only all the personal hells of hate, high-pressure, hard-heartedness and habits that consume us find their antidote in Easter's good news—there is also the larger and eternal spectre of alienation and meaninglessness. The promise of the resurrection is empty if it is only the continuation of the same frustration and disappointment that we experience so often here on earth. Immortality without joy, satisfaction and purpose is simply eternal misery. Easter holds out to you the Vision of a new plane of existence in which we are constantly in the loving presence of God—no more loneliness, no more confusion. Is that not a prospect incredibly worthy of celebration?

So, ...let's bring to the altar and celebrate the freedoms that God has given us: freedom from high-pressure and hard-heartedness, hatred and blame-fixing, habits that consume us, and the hell of separation. These are some of the astoundingly freeing dimensions of the new Exodus I want you to know about, and this is why I am convinced that Easter makes all other declarations of independence, bill of rights, magna cartas simply pale by comparison.

Easter says you are free. Not born free—but purchased at a very great price, the suffering and death undertaken for you on the hard wood of the cross. The buyer is none other than God. Your loving creator has bought you back to be with Christ forever. It's a level of freedom with present and eternal dimensions. It's a message that is, literally, life-changing. That's what I intend to celebrate this morning. Will you join me at the banquet table?

Copyright ©2003 Calvary Episcopal Church
Excerpted from a sermon delivered at Calvary Episcopal Church, Memphis, Tennessee, June 1, 2003, the Seventh Sunday of Easter.